How To Jam On Bass

Did you know that there is an easy 3 step process that you can follow to jam with your favorite songs on bass?

If you thought only guitar players get the option to play dozens of songs, on the spot without actually learning those songs… well, it can be done on the bass too.

I want to share with you a simple process you can follow to jam along to songs you like.

Step 1: Google The Song You Wish Yo Play

Enter this text in the google search bar: [Song name] + Chords.

What you’ll get returned in the results are chord charts for the song.

That’s great, because you are looking for a chord chart with the chord progression of the song, so that you can figure out which notes to play on bass.

The chord chart will look like something like this:

[Verse 1]
What shall we do with the drunken sailor?
What shall we do with the drunken sailor?
What shall we do with the drunken sailor?
Em D Em
Ear-ly in the morning

There will be lyrics of the song with chords printed above them in places where chord changes happen.

Step 2: Find Root Notes To Jam On Bass

Now that you have the chords chart for the song you wish to play, you can look at the chords that are being played. You can find chords above the lyrics.

As a bass player, you will not be playing chords, rather outlining them.

Study those chords to figure out what is the root note for each of the chords in the chord progression.

Those root notes will be the notes that you’ll play to jam on bass along with the song.

Step 3: Find a Rhythm That Fits The Song

Alright, so at this point, you have decided which song you wish to learn how to jam on bass.

You also know which notes to play with your fretting hand – those would be the root notes of each chord in the song.

The final step is to figure out which rhythm fits the song and practice getting the chord changes right.

Start by plucking a root note on beats 1 and 3 of each bar of music.

Always start with simple rhythms, playing whole, half, and quarter notes and mixing them up to match the song’s rhythm. If you don’t know how to play different note durations, check out Bass Guitar 101 course.

How To Jam On Bass

When it comes to jamming over songs using this 3-step formula, you shouldn’t be bothered if the bass line you’re playing doesn’t match the original bass line featured in the song.

Tip: choose an acoustic live recording of a song or lower the bass frequencies on your sound system when jamming for the best results and to avoid clashing with the original bass line.

When you’re playing root notes and are following the chord progression, you are being successful in outlining the chord changes of the song.

This means the bass line you play should fit the song in most cases.

This is your starting point to learning how to jam over famous songs on bass.

You can use this approach when you’re in a situation where you need to learn a lot of songs in a short amount of time.

Or for times when you just want to have fun and don’t want to really learn the song note-for-note.

Use this simple formula to come up with a bass line that “just works”.

The next step, if you are not an absolute beginner on bass is to spice up the bass line.

Add embellishments, turnaround, licks… whatever comes to you in the moment.

Campfire Songs On Bass

Although guitarists have this clear advantage that they can just play chords and it would sound pretty good on it’s own, it doesn’t mean that bass players should be stuck with learning everything exactly as it’s played on the record.

As a bass player, you can jam too in this most simple form without feeling bad about it.

I know it’s simple, but it really works.

Then there’s this point: it’s just fun to play songs “instantly” as opposed to spending hours learning the bass line note-for-note.

When you are jamming using this formula, you get to be a bit more involved in thinking about the music behind the song, a bit of theory and also get to be creative.

I feel it’s more beneficial for you this way.

When you’re performing a song from memory, you don’t really think about much and surely not about the song structure, chords, and rhythm – you just do it automatically, you just play the song.

When you are jamming on bass, the process helps you develop fretboard knowledge, especially if you’re a beginner on bass.

You’ll be developing a valuable skill of being aware of the chord progression at all times, and being able to quickly locate root notes on the bass fretboard for those chords.

Try this out, it especially works well with acoustic arrangements of songs and rock music.

Hope you’ll get a chance to try this 3 step process out in your next jam session.

Suggested Bass Courses


Walking Bass – Quick Start Guide

Learn to improvise effective walking bass guitar lines on your own using a simple strategy.


Walking Bass Fundamentals

Learn to create walking bass lines using chord tones and easy strategies all bass pros know about.

If you’re serious about bass and would enjoy step-by-step online bass lessons and courses, then I strongly suggest checking out how Bass Road Academy online bass courses can help you get results.

Learning how to play walking bass lines will unlock your mind when it comes to improvisation on bass.

BTW lessons you learn in the Bass Road Academy are focused on why behind the music and things you play, that way you can develop strategies and later on be able to jam and compose your own lines.

Hope you’ll find the jamming process outlined in the lesson helpful.

Keep grooving,

Want to get better at playing bass and make steady progress?

Level up your bass skills with online bass courses and lesson series at Bass Road Academy. 

Learn why behind the bass lines you play, have a strategy when improvising and make progress faster.